Richard Nicoll passed away today at the age of 39. He reportedly suffered a heart attack at his apartment in Sydney, Australia, and later died at St. Vincent’s hospital. His death was unexpected, shocking, and frankly devastating. Information regarding tributes and a memorial service have not yet been released.
Born in London and raised in Perth, Australia, Nicoll received an MA in womenswear design from Central Saint Martins in 2002, where he studied under the late, great Louise Wilson. He went on to work with Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, and later, after being discovered by Fashion East’s Lulu Kennedy (with the help of London PR guru Mandi Lennard) went on to debut his own label in 2006. His work, particularly his collaborations with artist Linder Sterling, was critically acclaimed. He rose to fame at a time when London was reemerging as a hotbed of talent, his peers being Christopher Kane, Roksanda Ilincic, Louise Gray, and Henry Holland.
During an interview in 2010, which, I should note, Nicoll generously granted me when I was a grad student at Saint Martins (he was kind to a fault—never arrogant, and always modest and willing to help students and young designers), the designer told me that, while growing up in a conservative town in Perth, “I was really into the grunge culture. I would wear baggy army pants and a pajama jumper. I was obsessed The Smiths at the time, so I usually had on a band t-shirt. And some crazy hats. I guess I stood out, but I used clothes as a way of expressing myself.” He continued to express himself—and allow women to express themselves—throughout his career, becoming known for his futuristic, sporty, but still elegantly feminine aesthetic.
However, Nicoll didn’t always have fashion on the brain, and in fact placed ceramics and theater design ahead of fashion on his desired course list when he first entered Saint Martins as a BA student. When he began his MA, he actually embarked upon the menswear pathway (which came in handy when he launched a critically acclaimed menswear line during the first season of LC:M), but found it creatively stifling, and turned to womenswear instead.
It was apparently the right choice, as Nicoll won three ANDAM prizes, an Elle Style Award, and counted the likes of Gwendoline Christie, Kylie Minogue, Florence Welch, Kiera Knightly, and more among his fans.
Nicoll, who also briefly designed for storied Italian label Cerruti, shuttered his own line in 2014, due to the tumultuous fashion climate. He focused on freelance projects and, according to a statement, was due to start a new role at Adidas, as well as a collaboration with Woolmark, at the time of his death.
I was introduced to Richard by my close friend Ellie when I moved to London, and he was one of the first truly welcoming people I met in the city. Whenever I needed anything, whether it was for a class, a story, or just a friendly face, he unfailingly made himself available—that’s rare for a fashion star. I’ll never forget when I was attending my first British Fashion Awards, he didn’t hesitate to lend me one of his Linder Sterling-print dresses. I still have it in my closet. He was compassionate, hardworking, and had the most spectacular blue eyes. I used to joke with him that meeting his gaze was like “staring into an ocean.” Nicoll’s spirit was more beautiful than his eyes. He was adored by all of his friends, whom he held dear, and he will be deeply missed.